Book talk: “Between Here and April,” by Deborah Copaken Kogan

Disclosure: I received this book for review as an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. The book was published on October 7, 2008 and is now in bookstores.

Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Between Here and April
Deborah Copaken Kogan
Algonquin Books, 2008 (hardcover) (ISBN 1565125622 / 9781565125629)
Fiction, 288 pages

First Sentence: April Cassidy was my best friend from the first day of first grade in September of 1972, until a couple of months later, when she failed to show up for school.

Book description (from publisher, via Amazon.com):
When a deep-rooted memory suddenly surfaces, Elizabeth Burns becomes obsessed with the long-ago disappearance of her childhood friend April Cassidy. Driven to investigate, Elizabeth discovers a thirty-five-year-old newspaper article revealing the details that had been hidden from her as a child—shocking revelations about April’s mother, Adele.

Elizabeth, now herself a mother, tracks down the people who knew Adele Cassidy and who thought that they knew what was going through her mind before she committed that most incomprehensible of crimes. She seeks out anyone who might help piece together the final months, days, and hours of this troubled woman’s life—from Adele’s former neighbor to her psychiatrist to her sister.

But the answers are more elusive than any normal investigation can yield, the questions raised are difficult to contemplate. In fact, the further into the story Elizabeth digs, the more she is forced to accept that she and Adele might not be so different.

Elizabeth’s exploration thus leads her ultimately back to herself: her compromised marriage, her increasing self-doubt, her desire for more out of her career and her life, and finally to a fearsome reckoning with what it means to be a wife and mother.

Comments: I don’t know if it’s really news to anyone any more that motherhood isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and butterflies – and I think we’re lucky to be living in a time when that’s more out in the open. It can be a struggle for many of us at times, and for some it’s a challenge that may just be too much.

Elizabeth Burns’ viewing of a production of Medea triggers a memory of her childhood friend April Cassidy, who was rumored to have been killed by her own mother in a murder/suicide. Once it comes back to her, Elizabeth can’t shake her thoughts of April, and her journalist background spurs her to dig into the story and try to find out what really happened. But it’s not the what of the story that turns out to matter as much as the why. As Elizabeth learns more about April’s mother Adele and her struggles with depression, she begins seeing some unsettling similarities to her own challenges in marriage and motherhood.

I think this would be a great book for book clubs in general, but particularly for book groups mostly composed of moms, because it’s both thought- and emotion-provoking, and I suspect the reactions of mothers might be particularly strong – although, since I am a mother, it’s hard to say how my response to the book might have been different if I weren’t. I have believed for a long time that my mother suffered from untreated, undiagnosed depression (which may have been a factor in her early-onset Alzheimer’s), and it wasn’t hard to be reminded of that in the character of Adele Cassidy. It also wasn’t hard to identify with the sense of being overwhelmed and inadequate in so many aspects – marriage, motherhood, and trying to maintain a professional life – that Elizabeth feels all too often. It’s what causes her to become dangerously immersed in Adele’s story.

Between Here and April is an engrossing page-turner with depth. I just wish I’d liked Elizabeth a little more – while I did connect with her, at times I also found myself getting irritated with her. I thought the novel wrapped up a bit too neatly, so it’s not entirely clear to me how much she really grew from her experience with the Cassidys’ story, but I think this book will stick with me a while just the same.

Rating: 3.75/5

Other bloggers’ reviews:
Planet Books
Reading Comes From Writing 

If you have reviewed this book on your blog, please leave a link in the comments or e-mail it to me at 3.rsblog AT gmail DOT com, and I’ll edit this post to include it.

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